The City

Collegeville (1887, 1895)
College Delta (1898, 1899)
Oakwood (1899)
Cedar Banks (1900)
College Grove (1903)
Fairview (1904, 1905)
College Heights (1904)

Charter of 1907

Avondale (1913)
Bungalow Knolls (1916)
Chesterfield Hills (1916)
Ardson (1919)
Ridgeley Park (1921)
Strathmore (1925)
Glen Cairn (1926)

The Campus




Interactive Map

Sites on the National and State Historic Registers

Complete list of
Significant Structures


Faculty Row № 7—Cowles House (1857, 1950) SR

Cowles House, August 2006. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.

Cowles House started life as one of four brick cottages built as the first faculty residences on campus in 1857. The bricks used in its construction were made of clay dug from the banks of the Red Cedar River and fired in a temporary kiln in the hollow near West Circle Drive south of Beal Entrance. Early M.A.C. Presidents Joseph R. Williams (1857–59) and Theophilus C. Abbot (1862–1884) lived here.

As Faculty Row expanded in the early 1870s and a new President’s residence was built, the house became known as “Number 7” and for the next forty-eight years was the residence of the Professor of Botany. Over that long span of time, it housed just two different professors and their families: William Beal and Ernst Bessey.

Faculty Row № 7, residence of the Professor of Botany, circa 1913.
The front porch is a “much later” addition. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 35.

Between 1874 and 1941, № 7 was remodeled and expanded several times. When Professor Bessey moved to a new home off campus in 1922, this house was reassigned to the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture so that the Secretary’s previous house, № 10, could be assigned to President David Friday. When Secretary H. H. Halladay retired in 1935, the house became one of several on Faculty Row to be used as a Home Economics practice house, with a brief interruption in 1938 when it became the temporary residence of state Governor (and future Supreme Court Justice) Frank Murphy.[MSC Record, 43(4), Jul 1938, p. 10. The Record, 45(3), Apr 1940, p. 8]

With the appointment of John A. Hannah (M.A.C. ’23) as President in 1941, № 7 became once again the President’s residence. “Because of constant changes during ninety-two years of its occupation, the structure [was] poorly arranged,” so it received a major renovation in 1949–1950 that replaced some wood-framed portions with fireproof brick, altered interior partitions, and added the west wing. Funding for the renovation came from the estate of Frederick Cowles Jenison (M.A.C. ’06), who had died a millionaire in 1939 and bequeathed his entire estate to his alma mater. (His estate also funded Jenison Fieldhouse in 1940.) Jenison was the grandson of Albert Cowles, who as one of M.A.C.’s first students in 1857 helped to haul the bricks for the original construction of № 7. After the renovation it was rechristened Cowles House after Jenison’s mother, Alice B. Cowles.[The Record, 54(6), Sep 1949, p. 6. Kestenbaum, p. 52]

Although Cowles House is widely known as “the oldest building on campus,” only two of № 7’s original exterior walls, and a portion of the original stone foundation, remain in place: the front entrance façade and the adjacent wall on the east elevation. They can be discerned by the decorative brickwork at the eave line and gables. (The oldest building on campus in essentially its original form is the Library–Museum.)

Cowles House, utterly obscured by thousands of ‘Merrill’ magnolia blossoms, Spring 1994. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.

In all, № 7 has been the first and sixth President’s House on campus. The rest are no longer standing: